I worked with a Dakota Rural Action committee to advocate a net-metering policy this year in Pierre. The Public Utilities Commission joined the industry in killing that proposal.

In a fit of reactionary wagon-fixing, Public Utilities Commissioner Chris Nelson is now pointing to the net-metering effort as a reason to get rid of other energy-efficiency incentives:

MidAmerican Energy Company started its energy efficiency programs in 2009. The PUC approved the company’s updated plans Tuesday, but the occasion sparked a philosophical debate among commission members.

Nelson used one category as an example.

“We’re asking 830 to pay for one person’s improvements. Some of those 830 may be competitors who are paying for one’s improvements,” Nelson said.

He said the PUC during legislative session opposed net metering, where people generate electricity through solar panels and wind turbines and sell the power to utilities because all other ratepayers pay more to benefit those independent producers.

“And we said that was wrong,” Nelson said.

He said energy-efficiency programs are doing the same thing. He acknowledged the numbers show it was probably valuable but a line needs to be drawn [Bob Mercer, "PUC vote reflects possible change ahead in philosophy for energy-efficiency incentives," Aberdeen American News, 2013.03.26].

The program provides value, but Commissioner Nelson sees the need to draw a philosophical line. Never mind that studies have found net metering has little if any impact on the rates non-participants pay. Never mind that promoting energy efficiency benefits all consumers by lowering demand and delaying the need to build new generating plants that raise rates for everyone. Commissioner Nelson needs to send a philosophical message, and by gum he's going to send it to everybody... even those utilities making perfectly sensible investments in energy efficiency.